5 Legal Obstacles Trans People In Arizona Face

Transgender residents of Arizona aren’t protected from job or housing discrimination, can’t get divorced, and may not be allowed to use the bathroom of their identified gender. Arizona’s laws and policies are a reminder of the problems trans people can face nationwide.

1. A new bill would let Arizona businesses ban transgender customers from using the bathroom of their identified gender.

Arizona Rep. John Kavanagh said the bill was important to keep children from seeing “naked men in women’s locker rooms and showers.” But some transgender Arizona residents say it actually puts them at risk, because trans women could be assaulted if they use men’s restrooms. Testifying against the measure, Claire Swinford said, “What your bill attempts to do is sacrifice my personal safety for somebody else’s sense of discomfort.”

2. Trans people may not be able to divorce there.

Patrik Stollarz / Getty Images

A family court judge ruled Friday that Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriage makes Thomas Beatie’s marriage to his wife invalid — so they can’t get divorced. Beatie (above, with his wife) is transgender — he became famous when he was pregnant with the couple’s child — and the judge says he can’t prove he was male when he got married.

3. The state does not protect trans people from discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

Constantine Pankin / Via shutterstock.com

According to the ACLU, Arizona does ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public employment. But private employers are free to discriminate on that basis, and anyone can legal discriminate against trans people for their gender identity. It’s also legal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity when it comes to housing.

Transgender people may now be protected from discrimination by federal law, per a 2012 ruling. But Arizona still remains behind 15 states that do prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

4. Its immigration laws may put transgender immigrants at disproportionate risk.

Matt York, File / AP

According to state law, Arizona police officers must now question residents about their immigration status when they stop them for other reasons, if they have any reason to think they may be in the country illegally. Transgender people may face heightened risks in immigration detention, including sexual assault, being placed in solitary confinement, and being barred from accessing hormone therapy. And transgender immigrants can face obstacles in getting legal status in the first place.

5. Its anti-bullying law was allegedly killed by an anti-LGBT group.

The Arizona Republic, Tom Tingle / AP

Last year, Arizona State Senator David Schapira proposed a bill that would have established a definition of bullying and mandated certain anti-bullying policies for the state’s schools. The bill might have protected LGBT students, who are at risk of bullying — but it didn’t actually mention sexual orientation directly. Still, Schapira said the bill stalled because of lobbying efforts by the anti-LGBT group the Center for Arizona Policy. And Cathi Herrod, lobbyist for the Center, wrote in a statement, “There is no doubt about it; the ‘bullying’ theme is agenda-driven propaganda. […] Groups like Equality Arizona and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) have used the bullying issue in order to gain access to our public schools.”

One upside: Q High, a high school specifically for LGBT students, was started in Phoenix last year. Andrew Alejo, 16, left, and Kailee Hernandez, 15, are students there.

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